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Milton debates regulating community events

Officials question whether vendors need licenses
Milton officials are debating whether vendors at community events like the Milton Farmers Market need to be licensed and charged to do business in town - even if the event is on private property. FILE PHOTO
June 19, 2017

To charge or not to charge?

That's a question Milton officials have been asking for more than a year after code enforcement officers told vendors at Milton Chamber of Commerce's Truckin' Tuesday they were required to have business licenses for the event.

That decision has prompted Milton's mayor and town council to debate how to handle the vendors at other community events, such as the Milton Farmers Market, which is run by a nonprofit that has not been required to get a town business license in its six years of operation.

At a council meeting June 5, an ordinance seeking to regulate community events was tabled, while a separate ordinance seeking to specifically regulate the farmers market was quashed.

Rules regulating community events were first introduced in July 2016 and tabled by officials at that time for a later discussion. The topic has now reemerged.

“The minutes say there was a vigorous discussion on this proposed ordinance … but I don't think we had anything like an agreement that we even needed such a document,” said Councilman Sam Garde. “I'm not convinced that we do. I'm not convinced that we don't. But I'm not convinced that we do.”

Milton Town Manager Kristy Rogers said an events policy and corresponding fees are needed to guide town staff.

“I don't ever want to deter an event from happening in town,” she said. “But I think on the staff aspect, we need guidelines to follow: What type of events are permitted; what needs council approval; what needs staff approval; what type of fee does the town have to be reimbursed?”

Such a policy does exist, with a fee schedule on the books, for any events held at Milton Memorial Park. But for events like the farmers market, which is held at Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, and Truckin' Tuesday, which previously has been held on the lot next to the Lydia B. Cannon Museum at the corner of Magnolia and Union streets, no such guidelines exist.

“As the town is growing, there may become events needing this type of policy,” Rogers said. Council voted to table the revised community events ordinance for future discussions.

Councilman Charlie Fleetwood, however, made it clear he would not support an ordinance specifically governing the farmers market. That rejected ordinance would have required the nonprofit to pay a $150 fee annually to the town, limit the event to no more than 25 pre-approved vendors, and require any vendor offering prepared meals to acquire a town business license.

“It's not on town streets. It's not on town property. Why do we need it?” he asked.

“Well, if the circus comes to town, do they need a permit from the town?” Mayor Ted Kanakos asked.

The answer would be no, Rogers said, because Milton has no community events policy – only regulations concerning business conducted in town limits.

“We're going out of our way not to be officious and money-grubbing,” Kanakos said. “You need a business license to do business in Milton. It's that simple.”

“Give me a break,” Fleetwood said. “Leave the farmers market alone.”

“We can't do that,” Kanakos said, “because that sets a dangerous precedent.”

The farmers market ordinance was rejected, but the community events ordinance, which could potentially regulate and charge nonprofit-run events like the Milton Farmers Market, is expected to resurface at a future council meeting.